Grant holder
Dr Lily FitzGibbon, University of Stirling
Project status
In Progress

A research project which aims to "develop and validate a new pictorial self-report measure of adventurous play for use with 3- to 7-year-olds".

Dr Lily FitzGibbon is working with 3 to 7-year-old children and a children’s illustrator to co-create a pictorial self-report measure that captures the activities, thoughts and feelings associated with adventurous play. This measure will allow children to communicate how they feel about adventurous play with researchers and educators. The project recognises children as autonomous learners and will provide a way to evidence the learning opportunities that outdoor and adventurous play can offer.

"This new measure will form the critical lynchpin for further research advancing understanding of the role of adventurous play for children’s health, wellbeing and learning."
Dr Lily FitzGibbon

True adventurous play elicits thoughts and feelings of risk, thrill, excitement, challenge, fear, and uncertainty, none of which are captured by third-person measures. This projects aims to create the first self-report measure of adventurous play providing opportunities for researchers to quantify the activities, thoughts, and feelings experienced during adventurous play.

The project has Froebelian principles at the heart of both the research topic and the research design... Froebel himself recognised the importance of adventurous play, for example, writing that opportunities to take risks by climbing trees will allow a child to “discover a new world” and “broaden his thoughts and feelings” (Froebel, 1967, p. 126), offering opportunities for learning that can protect from future dangers and anxieties associated with the unknown."
Dr Lily FitzGibbon

The project will have three phases:

  • Participatory research - interviews and co-creation workshops will be conducted with children from one kindergarten and one primary school. The illustrator engaged on the project will run a drawing workshop with classes of children. Additionally, small groups of children will complete a playground tour - to . encourage children to describe, demonstrate and draw the activities, thoughts and feelings that they associate with adventurous play.
  • Illustration - an illustrator will create simple illustrations to capture the activities, thoughts and feelings that are experienced during adventurous play. Brief narrative descriptions using the children’s vocabulary and phrasing from the participatory phase will accompany each illustration.
  • Validation - the illustrations will be shown to children from the kindergarten and primary school, as well as expert members of the advisory panel, to ensure that the intended activities, thoughts, and feelings are endorsed.

A final report detailing the projects's findings will be available here in November 2023.

"... a key outcome of the project will be the development of an openly available tool that helps to promote knowledgeable, nurturing educators who understand the perspective of children in their care. By developing a tool to help children to communicate their feelings about play, educators will be better able to understand, scaffold and nurture individual children’s play needs."
Dr Lily FitzGibbon

The team shared a poster of their work including drawings from children on adventurous play, at the International Play Association Conference in June 2023.

About the research team

The project will be led by Dr Lily FitzGibbon, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Stirling with expertise in children’s play and mental health. Lily has
experience leading and conducting research with preschool and primary age children. Through her research, she seeks to understand responses to uncertainty, including children’s adventurous play and curiosity, and their impact on learning and wellbeing.

The project will run in collaboration with award-winning children’s illustrator Kasia Matyjaszek, who will run workshops and design illustrations for the project. She is experienced running storytelling workshops with young children.

An expert advisory panel will provide guidance as the project progresses. The panel will include Professor Helen Dodd, University of Exeter; Matt Robinson, Learning Through Landscapes; Dr Gregory Mannion, University of Stirling.